I think I was around ten or eleven years of age when I noticed that people have an inordinate interest in the sex lives-real or imagined-of others. Gossiping about which girls were suspected to be sexually active was a favorite past time of teens and adults alike, even the ‘saved’ ones. Openly wondering about the sexual activity of others was not frowned upon at all. In my world it was the norm. Beginning in the Sixth grade I became the target of a number of whispering campaigns myself. It was always odd to hear details of all the ‘fast’ acts I was supposedly engaging in-not from the boys who supposedly did these things with me but from others.

By the time I was fifteen years old I was incredibly annoyed with it all. One Sunday evening the most recent rumor reached my ears. A girl my age taunted me with the rumor that I’d performed oral sex on a boy we knew. As I listened to her smugly repeat what was said a flame rose within me.  So what, I thought to myself. What if I had actually been alone with this boy and given him a blowjob as accused? Didn’t said mouth belong to me? Shouldn’t I be free to do what I pleased with it, and any other part of my body? Whether real or not, my sex life wasn’t the business of this gossiping bitch or anyone else. I yearned to say that to her and all others who participated in such slut-shaming. But I was supposed to be a ‘lady’, and good Black American Princesses simply didn’t respond like that. So I denied it and walked away, holding all my wrath inside. Suppressing my emotion and true response to all the unfair aspects of my environment would become my norm.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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